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Carving Stamps - Any Tips?


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#1 Stellaria

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 06:13 PM

I've been wanting to make some bisque stamps to use on my thrown work. I've been using wooden ones, which I like, but my dremel tool terrifies me so I don't make as many as I'd like.

My concerns about carving stamps out of clay center around never being able to carve a clean line out of anything, no matter what tool I try using - I always seem to get "crumbs" all along the line edges.

Anyone have any clay carving tips? I have a smooth white clay that gives me fits to throw with, so I thought that might be ideal due to lack of grog or sand. What sorts of tools give the cleanest lines? How stiff do you let the clay get before attempting to carve? Any finesse-y little things that I may not have considered that would be helpful?

#2 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 06:23 PM

Try getting a flex shaft for your dremel from ebay. It reduces the weight and you can carve more delicately.

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#3 clay lover

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 06:52 PM

I use a smooth porcelain like clay  and run it through the hand extruder to compress it into a long coli about as big around as a nickel.  Then I cut it into 3" lengths, let them firm up some and carve both ends.  I use dental tools to do the carving and often do more finishing work with the dremmel   after bisque firing.  I sometimes make impressions in the ends from other texture things I have around, like jewelry or button s with designs. or what ever catches my eye.  I don't like having the edge of the coil show in the impressed design, so I bevel it away from the stand up design, so only the design is pressed into the clay..

I take a tray full of the little coils and the tools and a beer and sit on the back porch under the fan and carve and drink beer.  Makes lots of stamps that way, some I even like!



#4 Stellaria

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 06:56 PM

Try getting a flex shaft for your dremel from ebay. It reduces the weight and you can carve more delicately.

Marcia

I have one, with a foot pedal control. I use it, and well, but it still scares the crap out of me!

#5 Pres

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 07:00 PM

All too often when working with a dremel, a good vise is important to hold the work steady.This works especially well with dowel rod pieces, 1X1wood blocks etc.  Either that, or work with a larger piece of wood and decorate the entire piece with the dremel, and then cut into individual stamps. We used to do a jewelry design project years ago where we would do random doodle all over a page, and then use a window cut out of paper to find an area/image that we liked for a new design. You might try that for design inspirations.


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#6 ChenowethArts

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 07:28 PM

Most of the small clay stamps that I make are not terribly detailed so I stick with a simple tool set, primarily a sharp x-acto knife, a needle tool, and a few sharpened chopsticks.  To get finer lines, I do the carving when the clay is leather hard and leave some thickness on the linework.  When the project is nearly dry, I then take the x-acto and carefully shave the lines, little-by-little to the desired line thickness/thinness. BTW, I used to thin the stamp handles down to about a quarter inch...this makes them a little brittle when it comes time to put pressure on the stamps when putting them into practice.

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#7 Darcy Kane

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 08:41 PM

I also make skinny coils and add them to the flat surface of a stamp blank.  I use this to form the basic design I want to stamp.  I then use pin tools, wooden clay tools, and a wet paint brush to smooth and trim.  I also use seashells and odd things I find outside to impress into the clay.  Making stamps is lots of fun but I like the idea of adding in some beer.  i'll have to give that a try!



#8 Benzine

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 09:52 PM

What about carving your design into plaster, then pressing the clay into that, to create the reverse, which will become your stamp? Just remove the clay, add a small handle, and there you go. Soft, freshly cast plaster carves very easily, but you have to work quick.
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#9 williamt

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 09:58 PM

You have to become one with the Dremel :)

The vise suggestion is excellent. I have added dense foam like in knee pads to protect the clay and give a firm, but gentle hold.

I also like to make impressions of found objects - textile, cut glass, rope, fish bones, just about anything.

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#10 Isculpt

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 01:08 AM

Stellaria, I made my living for 15-20 years carving wood with a flexible shaft dremel.  That dremel and I were great friends, but you are smart to be a little afraid of it! 

 

I have had a hank of hair get caught in the spinning dremel head and leave me with a painful bald spot.  I've had the dremel sanding burr get caught in a bind so that the shaft became rigid and smacked me in the face with shocking force.  With the tool hung on a stand beside me, I've lowered it towards the floor, letting go of it as it was slowing/stopping and had the dremel burr catch in my dog's fur.  He quit sitting beside me in the studio after that!  I have numerous scars on my hands from holding small items while the dremel burr, instead of drilling down into the item, ran across it and across my fingers. Trust me, flesh is no match for a coarse dremel burr.  I've lost several fingernails because the burr ran around my finger and paused long enough on the nail to sand it down to the flesh. 

 

Pres has the right idea, although I could never get used to clamping my work in a vise. Whatever you do, don't work on small pieces unless you have experience and good control of the tool.  I had both, but it didn't stop me from getting my hands ripped up from time to time.  A dremel doesn't make a nice clean cut, it chews flesh, and those injuries take much longer to heal and are much more painful.

 

I still use a dremel in my clay work on occasion, and I promise that a dremel won't kill you (probably), but it can definitely leave you in a world of hurt!   Jayne



#11 Stellaria

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 04:00 AM

Yeah, I've had it scare me a few times by deciding to take a jaunt across the face of my stamp rather than cutting into it like I intended.
I *am* competent with it. I don't do bad work - I just have to psyche myself into doing it and that takes several days. (Kind of like having to call a place on the phone to make an appointment - that won't kill me either, but it still takes me a few days to talk myself into actually doing it :P )

I figured carving into leather-hard clay would be more likely to happen, as it is quiet and wouldn't have any fast-moving parts eager to spit small particles at my face. (Yes, I do wear safety goggles. I'm still terrified of getting hit in the face with anything, though. Part of the reason I haven't tried using my diamond cutting wheel to rescue some glaze-accident pieces. Not eager to get smacked in the face with flying bits of glass. Or sparks.)

So yeah. Carving clay. Sounds like I should get me a new exacto and some dental-tool-like tools to work with. And maybe some ball-point styluses.

#12 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 08:45 AM

Can you slow down the speed?
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#13 williamt

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 09:14 AM

Also, using any power tool kicks up dust (silica, oxides, whatever is in the clay, glaze, wood). When using this particular type tool, your face is close to the work (I was glad to read you use goggles). Do you also wear a good filter over your mouth and nose?
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#14 Pres

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 09:27 AM

When working with a dremel, one should remember it is basically a small grinder and cut off. Wheels can break and fly and at the same time, ceramic will often chip in odd ways. Always wear at least goggles, and in many cases a full face shield is a good option. Hair and other areas that might get into the head should definitely be tied back, buttoned, or rubber banded.

 

Years ago, I had to wear a tie when teaching no matter what. I was working in one room with handbuilding and went into the wheel throwing room for a student asking for help, forgot to tuck my tie. Tie wrapped into the wheel and clay, and before I knew it I had been yanked into the wheel head! It stopped the wheel, and I somehow got the foot pedal up, but was dazed for a while, and had a goose egg the next day. Could have been much worse. Any power tools deserve respect for what they do well, and what they could do. . . . . .


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#15 Chilly

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 10:24 AM

 And maybe some ball-point styluses.

+1, in leather hard clay.

 

Doesn't create the chipped edges you get in dry clay, nor the ragged edges from damp clay.


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#16 Bob Coyle

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 10:55 AM

You can use Sculpty clay to carve on then bake it. It holds up pretty good and is not so much work as carving with a Dremel. I have also just used a hot melt gun to extrude a pattern onto a wood block. Not good for more intricate designs but you can make some nice patterns quick.

 

Another thing I have done is to impress a pattern into damp clay and then pour 5 min epoxy into the impression. It cures up and you have the original positive pattern. Just wash off the wet clay and you are ready to go. I used this technique with letter stamps to make whole words that were in perfect register so that I did not have to stamp each letter one at a time on every piece. Works great.



#17 Benzine

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 11:42 AM

 
Years ago, I had to wear a tie when teaching no matter what. I was working in one room with handbuilding and went into the wheel throwing room for a student asking for help, forgot to tuck my tie. Tie wrapped into the wheel and clay, and before I knew it I had been yanked into the wheel head! It stopped the wheel, and I somehow got the foot pedal up, but was dazed for a while, and had a goose egg the next day. Could have been much worse. Any power tools deserve respect for what they do well, and what they could do. . . . . .


The worst that I've had in my classroom, was some flip flops being grabbed by the kickwheel and tossing them....Knock on wood. Indo warn students, about loose clothing, shoelaces and apron ties, especially when working on the kickwheel. I also warn about stepping on the kickwheel, while it's moving. I have no idea, what would happen, but can't imagine it would be good.

If the district ever tells me, that I have to wear a tie, I'm referencing your story.
"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#18 Pres

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 12:55 PM

Ties in an Art Studio? Ridiculous, but it was required no exceptions. The PhysEd department got special shirts to wear because of their activity, not for us! Think pugmills, potters wheels, kilns, torches, buffing wheels, grinders, printing presses, dremel tools, flex shaft tools and others. Ties, actually we were setting a poor example for those that would be going into jobs of the sort that would use equipment.


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#19 Denice

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 02:35 PM

I must be out of step with other potters on making stamps, I just make them out of plaster.  I carve my design in some soft clay, pour the plaster stamp and then can do more clean up before the plaster gets totally cured.  I check the impression when the plaster is dry and if I don't like it I can toss it and make the changes in the clay and re-pour.  I have some stamps that are over thirty years old, I suppose they wear out faster, when that happens I decide that it's time to retire that design anyways.  Denice



#20 Stellaria

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 06:33 PM

Working in a tiny studio/workroom in my old house with crappy plumbing, I've been avoiding making things with plaster as much as possible. Thank goodness it's getting warmer - I can start doing things outside now!




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